Another Hubbard Street Dance performance last night
, and all of us walked out of the theater chattering over one another in excitement. This was one of their strongest and most exciting series yet, particularly also because we hadn’t seen any of the four dances before. I think, with the benefit of a couple of trapeze classes, and a mere handful of yoga classes, I also have a much deeper appreciation of the grace and strength of the dancers.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago always surprises with their repertoire. Each of their performances is so different from the one prior, unified by the unwavering talent of the HSDC dancers. The company stretches the bounds of contemporary dance–which are expansive to begin with–consistently transforming movement in ways that can reach even the most reluctant performance-goer. Their performances present such a variety that there’s sure to be something that impacts each segment of their audience.
HDSC’s Fall Series, performed September 30-October 3 at Harris Theater, includes four pieces that not only exhibit this variety, but showcase the unfailing athleticism and grace of the dancers. The first piece, Alejandro Cerrudo’s Blanco, leaves the viewer with a calm sense of satisfaction. An abstract work featuring four women–Laura Halm, Jesssica Tong, Meredith Dincolo, and Robyn Mineko Williams in the opening performance–the piece emphasizes extensions and liquid movement. Despite the demanding choreography, the movements seem gentle and organic, with each dancer seeming to glide alongside each other like silk.
Cerrudo’s Deep Down Dos, the second piece in the series, takes the audience into a deep cavern, with a sci-fi flavor. The score “Music for Underground Spaces,” written by Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Mason Bates, felt a bit like An American in Paris meets the Matrix. The piece has the feel of an intense film score, with hints of Gershwin-esque playfulness. The choreography creates an impression of weightlessness, with dancers moving, at times, as though floating in space.
Only the third piece, Victor Quijada’s PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS, leaves me baffled. The piece begins extremely strong. Many dances feature a kind of puppeteering, where one dancer seems to pose another one, but this piece showcases some of the best puppeteering I’ve ever seen. The opening scene, featuring four male dancers, is truly humorous, as each dancer poses another so skillfully that, at times, you almost believe that the dancers are oversized plastic action figures, rather than human beings. But the work tries to accomplish too much, and loses unity between all of the components. The piece is filled with moments of comedic brilliance, particularly in the ways it invades and breaks down the fourth wall, but it becomes disjointed and drags.
In their Fall Series, HSDC saves the best for last. The final piece, Nacho Duato’s Arcangelo, features impressions of heaven and hell. Marked by its gorgeous visual composition, Duato’s work features images created by uniquely posed legs, figures posed at rest on the stage, and work with a curtain. The piece is so skillful that even the use of the curtain onstage creates a disturbing illusion of decapitation. A standing ovation is certainly warranted after this piece.